A record five blacks have made the 2008 Forbes magazine’s list of the world's wealthiest people - billionaires - for the first time. They come from Ethiopia, Sudan, South African, Nigeria and the United States.
Ethiopian-born Mohammed Al Amoudi is the richest black person in the world with a total net worth of $9 billion, followed by Nigerian commodities mogul Aliko Dangote, with assets worth $3.3 billion. African American TV personality Oprah Winfrey is worth $2.5 billion, while Sudanese-born telecommunications mogul Mo Ibrahim is worth $2.5 billion and South African mining magnate Patrice Motsepe is worth $2.4 billion.
Amoudi, who emigrated to Saudi Arabia and made his fortune in the construction and real estate businesses, is ranked 97th richest man in the world, while Dangote, who owns a string of businesses in the commodities industry, is ranked the 334th richest person in the world, and Motsepe, who owns a 42% stake in the African Rainbow Minerals (ARM), is ranked number 503.
Two other white South Africans also made the Forbes list: mining magnate Nicky Oppenheimer and cigarette and luxury goods maker Johann Rupert. Oppenheimer ranks number 173, while Rupert is number 284.
According to Forbes magazine, Dangote’s wealth is “inherited and growing” and comes from sugar production, flour milling, salt processing and cement manufacturing. His business interests also now extend to oil and textile processing. Dangote recently told a Nigerian newspaper that he was grateful to God, but was confident that more Nigerians would make the list next year.
“The country is moving in the right direction,” he said, according to This Day newspaper in Lagos. “Things are happening. I am very confident that in the years to come, Nigeria alone will boast of 100 billionaires who are entrepreneurs. The signs are very good for Nigeria. Next year, I expect at least five Nigerians to be on the list.”
Steve Forbes, the former Republican presidential candidate who’s editor-in-chief of the family-run Forbes magazine, was equally optimistic about the future of wealth. "The reason for this explosion in wealth is that we're in the midst of a phenomenal global boom," he said.
The 2008 Billionaire List includes American Warren Buffett, who for has knocked off Bill Gates and Carlos Slim as the world's richest man, with a fortune estimated at $62 billion, up $10 billion from last year. Slim, a Mexican telecommunications mogul, is now the second richest man on earth, with net worth of $60 billion, followed by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, whose net work is about $58 billion, according to the magazine.
At the age of 21, Dangote became a stock trader using a loan from his uncle. After he built his company, The Dangote Group, into a conglomerate with interests in sugar, flour milling, cement and salt processing, his company was listed on the Nigerian stock exchange last year The Dangote Group dominates the sugar market in Nigeria and is the country's largest industrial group.
Meanwhile, Motsepe has been dubbed the "prince of mines" by some of his countrymen because of the vast fortune he has amassed. Over 15 years, Motsepe has turned a low-level mining services business, ARM, into an industrial giant, which is now South Africa’s first black-owned mining company, with 2007 revenue of $875 million and is listed in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Driven by the Asian commodities boom, ARM's share price has rocketed in the past year from $12 to $24, pushing Motsepe's net worth to $2.4 billion.